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Sun 12th Jul 2020 - Epiris in exclusive talks to acquire Casual Dining Group
Epiris in exclusive talks to acquire Casual Dining Group: Epiris, the UK-based private equity firm that formerly backed TGI Friday’s and Parkdean Resorts, is in exclusive talks to acquire Casual Dining Group (CDG), operator of the Café Rouge, Bella Italia and Las Iguanas brands. Epiris is believed to have fought off competition from US hedge fund Elliott Adviser in the race to acquire CDG, which closed 91 of its 250 sites last week, after it was placed into administration. A successful deal would see circa 4,000 jobs preserved, with Epiris backing the current management team, led by chief executive James Spragg, and owning circa 160-sites spread across the Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Las Iguanas brands. A spokesman for AlixPartners, the administrators of CDG, told Propel: “We can confirm we have entered exclusive negotiations with Epiris. The exact number of sites in the deal will depend on Epiris being able to reach terms with landlords that appropriately reflect the market challenges faced by the casual dining sector.” It is thought any successful bidder for the business, would need to make an initial circa £20m to £25m investment to provide the group with further liquidity to get through the lock-down and reopening period. Epiris had previously been one of the bidders for Azzurri Group, the operator of ASK Italian and Zizzi. Propel previously revealed TowerBrook Capital, the US private equity firm, was the frontrunner to acquire Azzurri, and could conclude a deal this week. Propel revealed at the end of last month a number of parties were bidding to acquire all or part of CDG. Aurelius Group, the German investment group that came close to rescuing Jamie’s Italian, was interested in acquiring the Bella Italia and Café Rouge brands. TriSpan, backer of Rosa’s Thai and Thunderbird Fried Chicken, and private equity firm Endless were both bidding to secure Las Iguanas. CDG has been working with AlixPartners to progress a sale process that was announced in mid-May and aimed at finding a new investor for the group. Propel understands TriSpan was working on its bid with Ron Pearson, formerly of Bowmark Capital, which backed a £27m management buyout of the then 14-strong business in 2007. At the same time, Endless was believed to be working on its bid with Mark McQuater, former chief executive of Revolution Bars Group, who was recently appointed chairman of Roxy Leisure.

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